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Parliament on record

Published date: 14 Jul 2017

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A proper record of what goes on at Parliament is vital. The way Parliament’s activities have been recorded has changed over the years — from newspapers to apps. Find out how you can follow what happens at Parliament.

Newspapers

New Zealand’s Parliament initially relied on newspapers to cover its debates, but the reports were usually biased. In the 1850s, newspapers openly supported particular politicians, who sometimes supplied their own notes for the news reports. Other politicians accused them of distorting the record.

In 1867, Parliament solved this problem by setting up an independent service for recording debates — Hansard.

Trial televising of the House, 1986. Enlarge image

Trial televising of the House, 1986.

Source: Parliamentary Service 1986

Hansard

Hansard reporters started recording exactly what politicians say in the House of Representatives.

They had to pen accurate shorthand at great speed and understand political matters, parliamentary procedures, and the obscure references sprinkled throughout speeches.

For nearly 100 years, Hansard was a male domain. The first female reporters entered in 1962 — and soon women outnumbered men.

  • Bound Hansard volumes are still the official record of parliamentary debates. Hansard is also published on the Parliament website.

Radio

In 1936, New Zealand became the first country to broadcast its parliamentary debates regularly on the radio. Despite initial problems, like microphones picking up embarrassing conversations, the broadcasts were popular with the public. Some listeners even sent ‘fan mail’ to speakers they enjoyed hearing.

A radio programme about Parliament has been funded by the Clerk of the House since 1994.

Today you can listen to coverage of what’s happening at Parliament on RNZ’s The House which broadcasts on National Radio each sitting day and on Sundays. The programmes are also available as podcasts on both the Radio New Zealand and Parliament websites.

You can listen to The House on:

RNZ also provides audio podcasts of question time.

Television

The State Opening of Parliament was first televised in 1962. From the early 1990s, Parliament encouraged the media to televise House proceedings. Most coverage focused on question time and the Budget.  

Full television coverage of the House started in July 2007. Parliament TV was streamed to Parliament’s website, and then broadcast free to air and on pay TV channels since October 2007. Replays of question time were added in 2008. Parliament TV is freely available to all broadcasters, who frequently use clips for news items.

You can watch Parliament TV on:

Video on demand

Video clips are generally available within half an hour of the speech or question being delivered in the debating chamber.

MPs often make use of this to promptly send links to their speeches out to constituents or post them online to draw attention to significant debates.

You can watch Parliament TV on demand on:

Apps

  • Radio New Zealand streams audio of The House live on its Radio New Zealand app. The app also makes the other programmes about Parliament available on demand.

  • The Virtual House app was released by Parliament in 2015 to help people use mobile devices to find out what’s happening at Parliament. The app includes information from the Parliament website including sitting dates, contact details for MPs, and live-streaming of Parliament TV audio and video. Download the app on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Interpretation services

Te Reo Māori

MPs can speak in the House in either English or Te Reo Māori. Provision for translation and interpretation has varied over the years.

Simultaneous interpretation was introduced in 2010 so MPs can listen to the interpretation on receivers at their seat in the House.

New Zealand Sign Language

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpretation has been provided on Parliament TV in NZSL week since 2014, and on Budget day since 2015.

Question time became more accessible to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing in 2015 when captions were provided on the Parliament TV on demand service.

Parliament website

The Parliament website provides information about the progress of legislation, select committee activities and offers an online record of Parliament through Hansard and Parliament TV on demand.

It also helps the public understand how Parliament works and how they can get involved.

The website continues to develop new social media channels to keep New Zealanders informed about what is happening at Parliament and how they can get involved:

Related links:

Watch Parliament

For the record: 150 years of Hansard